Lentil Love. (You Heard Me.)

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So you know I try to eat mindfully, primarily plant based. And lately that has involved lentils. They are delicious, healthy, filling, and versatile. And, I learned today, a solid stand in for the meat in meatloaf.

One lentilloaf in and I’m a convert.

This is what we had tonight for dinner and it was amazing.

http://www.onceuponacuttingboard.com/2014/05/buffalo-lentil-loaf.html

We used the Hot Wing Time buffalo sauce and it was nice and spicy. The BBQ-Buffalo glaze was substantial, and a great taste combination. The puréed lentils give a consistency similar to ground beef. I already can’t wait for my meatloaf sandwich for lunch tomorrow, but first I do want to enjoy this Patriots game that I’m watching. (Go Pats!)

The other lentil recipe that will be regularly appearing in our Winter dinner rotation is this one:

http://ohsheglows.com/2013/01/18/maple-baked-lentils-with-sweet-potato-healthy-comfort-food/

I love sweet potatoes. I wanted to experiment with lentils. And this recipe intrigued me, because it seemed to be a kind of funky combination of ingredients. And it is a funky combo for sure, but it’s a winning combination that works. The recipe suggests serving it with bread or salad, and I am all about the bread, because the dish is like a really hearty stew. And, when I want lentils and greens, this is my go-to:

http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/barley-lentil-salad

Love a lentil today. Try something new. Experiment. Take a baby step outside of your comfort zone. Just go. Start. Be accountable to you. Have fun. But go. Come on!

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PPB: Primarily Plant-Based

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Vegetarian, flexitarian, vegan, freegan, whole foods, plant-based, gluten-free, no sugar, organic, low-carb, Paleo…seriously, what am I supposed to eat? Not even a diet of water and supplements is safe!

I’m landing squarely in the “mindful eating” camp, the place where informed decision making and good choices reign supreme. It’s no different than life, for crying out loud. Educate yourself. Make smart choices. Be forgiving of yourself. But push and challenge yourself too.

I love meat. Nothing like a good steak. And I pride myself on my ability to really get my money’s worth out of an already-cheap rotisserie chicken from BJ’s. But at the same time I’m aware of the drawbacks of eating too much meat. Too much anything. Of simply eating too much. I come at this now from a point of exercising a bit less (ugh!) and weighing a bit more (double ugh!) (and weighing more but still in my acceptable range) and as I type I realize that I am always going to have to be vigilant and attuned to what I am doing…even if it’s understanding and accepting some not-so-good choices.

Finding new recipes and feeling like I’m getting the right nourishment and all that is a great challenge. It’s fun trying new things. I’m making my own nut milks and nut butters. I’ve given my new Veggetti a good workout. And I’ve also adapted some of my long-time favorite recipes to be meat-free.

Here’s a favorite, and instructions are how I did it yesterday (it varies):

Vegetarian Quinoa Chili
Serves 8

Heat a small layer of water in the bottom of a saucepan and add diced onion (1, sweet), peppers (2, one red and one orange), and jalapeños (2, unseeded, but I like hot stuff) and start sautéing it. Add chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and some hot sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot).

Meanwhile, cook 1 cup of dry quinoa according to package directions. When it is done, add it to the veggies, and add another dose of spice (chili powder, cumin, etc.). Give it a stir and let it sauté for a bit. Then add two cans of rinsed and drained black beans (for me it was Goya low sodium), two 14 oz-ish cans of diced tomatoes, two 32 oz cans of kitchen-ready to orators, a helping of the spices, and let it simmer for a while. Until it’s hot and you can’t wait any longer! I serve mine with Trader Joe’s FF sour cream and some shredded Mexican cheese blend.

Yum. And super-healthy. Per MyFitnessPal? 392 calories, assuming the pot makes 8 servings. Enjoy!l

Remember, you are the only one lucky enough to be you, so don’t squander that opportunity. Go. Start. Now. Do. Be. Just go.

Two Great Tastes…

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…just like Reese’s peanut butter cups, part of learning how to cook and eat differently comes with pairing the unexpected…but with experience you get to know what sounds and “feels” right, and you can stretch yourself a little…both in the kitchen and out.

My sister called my attention to this recipe, and when I made it for the first time, I could not get over how amazing it was. Around the same time, my mom tipped me off to this one, and it was also delicious (coincidentally also from Martha Stewart).

This morning I was really hungry…I was craving the avocado toast, but I had a tomato from the garden, and I worried the avocado toast wild leave me hungry. So I decided to chance it and marry the two recipes. I made the avocado toast, then layered on some tomato slices, then topped with a fried egg, over easy.

Heaven. Delicious. Great flavors that went together, filled me up, made use of one of my last tomatoes of the season, and made me glad that I went “off recipe.”

Yeah, it was just a silly meal, just for me…but it was also a reminder to try stuff, to surprise yourself, and to enjoy it.

Take chances. Small ones. Big ones. Low risk. High risk. Just try. Start. Go. Now.

Dispatch From The Prairie: Almond Milk

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So I’ve been busy lately, dealing with some pretty heavy personal stuff, but in parallel I have been working really hard to keep focused and positive, head up, eyes on the horizon…but not overlooking the beauty in front of of me.

When I do things at home, mostly related to what I’m cooking or eating, things that to me feel like going old school, I refer to those things as like being on the prairie. The latest occurrence of that found me in the kitchen, squeezing a nut bag (heh heh), making my own almond milk.

There is no shortage of diet “propaganda,” and I’ve started to half joke about the fact that if you want to be safe about what you ingest, you should go on a water diet.

All joking aside, there’s been some negative publicity around certain emulsifiers in almond milk…and I’ve always been intrigued with the idea of making my own. So I recently went for it. And I haven’t turned back. Homemade almond milk is easy and delicious. I control the crap that goes into my body. If the biggest downside is needing to shake it, I can handle that.

I soak about a cup of almonds overnight. Then I blend them with 1.5 cups of water to make a thick-ish paste. I then add another 2.5 cups of water, about 40g of maple syrup, and a tsp of vanilla, and blend that until it’s got a good froth on top. I strain it through a nut bag, bottle and cap it, chill it, and then I am good to go. It’s great in coffee and even better in cereal.

Nothing to be afraid of. No fancy blender. It goes back to what I’ve said all along. Just do something. Try. If it doesn’t work out, who cares? Every step gets you closer to your goal.

And if you’re cutting back on meat, I can’t recommend lentils enough. Who knew? Try this. You won’t regret it. I was intrigued by the combination of ingredients, and I went for it. No looking back.

It’s how I live, and that includes how I eat. Just do something. Go!

The Bleach Stain On The Bathmat (And Other Things That Completely Don’t Matter)

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This is a story about a bleach stain on a bathmat.

I know, right?

Who the hell wants to hear about a bleach stain on a bathmat?

Worse yet, who the hell wants to tell a story about one?

Well, I want to tell it…and you don’t know it, but you probably need to hear it.

The other day, I discovered a small bleach stain on my new-ish, “expensive” bathmat ($20, Target). I was pissed, and I let the offender know it.

And as soon as I unloaded, I wanted to hit the “rewind” button.

Seriously, who the hell cares? What does it matter? And what was my point in lashing out?

The more I thought about it, the more ashamed I was. The bleach stain was caused in the process of giving the bathroom a more thorough cleaning than I’ve given it in years. And yeah, so what if I cleaned the tub and the grout and the tile and the shower curtain in the past without causing any collateral damage to the bath linens? What does it matter?

I should have been grateful for the help, the help that was generously offered, was executed with a smile…the helper who reassured me patiently during the entire cleaning exercise…and here I was being a giant a-hole about a bleach stain that no one else will ever see and has no negative functional implication on the bathmat.

It’s a friggin’ bathmat.

I know. It’s a lot to say about a small bleach stain on a bathmat (in a shitty old bathroom, I might add).

But it’s a large life lesson for me. About how and why I behave, and what does and doesn’t matter. It was a massive wake-up call about treating what is important (the person cleaning the bathroom) with the compassion and respect deserved, and about letting the things that don’t matter (a bleach stain on the bathmat) pass by without mention. What’s the point of being a jerk and making the people you care about feel crappy for doing something awesome?

Sad to say that we (or at least I) can get caught up in the crappy minutiae of life and co-mingle feelings and reactions and experiences to a needlessly negative end…so we (or at least I) should take a step back if needed, take an extra breath if needed, to channel our feelings and reactions and experiences in a positive way, to deliver results that are supportive, and affirming, and useful.

So start shaping your thinking using the power of perspective. Ask yourself if something matters and respond accordingly. And if you respond poorly, learn the lesson, ask for forgiveness, and endeavor not to make the same mistake again.

Overlook the bleach stains in life, and look the person who matters in the eye and say, “Thank you for all you do for me; I love you so much.” Isn’t that a much better way to spend a minute than carrying on like an idiot, about a bathmat?

In other news, need a good meat-free sandwich besides tuna? Try this gem:
IMG_0893.JPG

Mash a can of chickpeas (drain them first). Add an avocado and mash that in with the chickpeas. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add in a little mayo if you like. I like a little Hellman’s Light, to give it a more spreadable consistency. I’m big into the Trader Joe’s sprouted bread now, just for fun. Use whatever you like. I like a thin layer of mayo, about 1/4 of the chickado mash, some tomato slices, and voila! A delicious meat-free lunch!

A Very Berry Haiku. Or Two.

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Ah, sweet blackberries.
Sneaking. Picking. Eating. Yum.
Fun times long gone by.

Blackberries remind me of my childhood so vividly, in a multi-dimensional way—when I think of blackberries, I think of my whole family, our family dynamics…I think of fun times and laughing…everyone’s personality captured in a seemingly simple act.

And now blackberries are more than a berry. They’re a symbol of times gone by. But they’re also a sign of things to come. A reminder of the cyclical nature of things that both surrounds us and that we are a part of at the same time.

As kids, my dad would load the three of us into the station wagon and shuttle us of to his top-secret blackberry patch. Somewhere by the side of a road in Braintree, a spot he knew from when he was a kid. Before we’d leave he’d needle my mom about getting the pie crust ready, and once we arrived we set out picking berries for a pie, eating at least as much as we picked, laughing and smiling, and feeling a little like outlaws, huddled in our own secret blackberry palace.  We’d pick and pick and eat and eat and pick some more and eat even more, and would go home dirty and scratched and having to pee and stuffed with berries but still hungry for the pie we’d urge my mom to bake.

My dad started suggesting to me, a few years back, that I get some thornless blackberry bushes recommended by his friend, Bill. Bill always delivered fresh produce from his garden to my parents’, garnering him the nickname “VegetaBill.” (Ba dum bum.) But anyway…VegetaBill knew his stuff so this year I bit the bullet and got six such plants, keeping four for myself and giving two to my dad. We’re optimistic about our crops, although there won’t be anything to pick this year. And it’s hard to believe next year might bear fruit but we’ll see on that.

In any case, we love our blackberries. My mom doesn’t bake pies anymore (she is an awesome baker but never liked making pies), but my sister bakes them for him on special occasions. I’ve never made a pie, so this recipe interested me, because it looked so easy and sounded so delicious. While the word “slump” may have negative connotations, when it comes to this dessert, it’s a surefire winner. I still haven’t decided whether it was better hot or cold, and I still can’t believe that I was able to let it simmer without peeking. I think going outside and stepping away from the pan was a good idea.

20140716-111103-40263385.jpg

Ah, sweet blackberries.
Tending new bushes with love.
Happiness soon to be picked.

And, on a note unrelated to this post but related to my life, and something worth considering, I give you the July calendar page that hangs at my parents’ house:

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Savory Oatmeal Strikes Again!

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I was hungry. (What’s new?). Didn’t have much in the house. (Whats new?). Wanted to eat healthy. (What’s new?) (See a pattern here?)

I also didn’t have many calories available to me, so what to do?

The easy answer would be something like cereal, which I had last night for dinner. Or eggs, which I had this morning for breakfast. Or oatmeal with blueberries, because they were in the house. But I really wanted dinner oatmeal. And so, in five minutes, I was eating a big delicious nutritious filling bowl of savory oats, done like this:

Microwaved 1/2 c of Quaker Quick Oats.
Warmed a half serving (61g) of Goya low sodium black beans with a little chipotle spice blend.
Stirred 1/8c of shredded Mexican cheese into the cooked oats.
Added the hot beans and mixed those in.
Topped it with a serving of Trader Joe’s salsa verde.

According to my pal, MyFitnessPal, that was a 265c dinner with 12g of protein. I’ll take it.

You have to start to get and gain positive momentum. So go. Start. Now.

And let this remind you of the power and value of choices, which we have at every turn. I could have gotten a takeout meatball sub, which I always love. Or a pizza. But I didn’t. And that might have tasted better, but I definitely wouldn’t have been happier than I am right now.

You get what I’m saying?

Go. And be good to yourself if you ever do choose the meatball sub!